#RegularizaciónYa: Spain’s anti-racism and anti-colonialism movement

Immigrant exploitation is all around us. Many of Spain’s 600,000 undocumented migrants are essential workers. They pick Europe’s vegetables and keep them cheap, they take care of the elderly, clean the hospitals, deliver us food, build our homes and allow us to stay confined in them during the pandemic. Institutional exploitation of immigrants must stop, and that is exactly what Regularización Ya are here to do. 


On 25 June, the team of Barcelona’s Sindicato de Manteros packed overnight bags and caught a plane to Madrid. They arrived into the Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport after dark and were greeted thunderously by their Madrid anti-racist comrades, ready to join up and fight for their rights the following morning.

That morning, police blocked off access to Congress, despite confirmation of the location of the protest. But I found the demonstrators – they weren’t far away, having been shifted to outside the Westin Palace hotel, crammed into a narrow junction between fences and police vans. They chanted “Regularización Ya” and “No human being is illegal” between slogans adopted from the BLM protests, including “No justice, no peace!”.


Regularización Ya is a Spanish anti-racism and anti-colonialism movement born out of the Covid-19 crisis during Spain’s deepest phased of lockdown. Their initial aim was to pressure the government to fast-track the regularisation of undocumented migrants already living here in order to allow them access to health care, legal rental contracts and state aid.

Due to sudden and extreme confinement from one day to the next, undocumented migrants had no source of income, nor access to government aid. They also had no rental security and, following being unable to pay their rent during Phase 1 of lockdown, faced homelessness.

The Regularización Ya movement also aims to raise awareness of how institutional discrimination and the modern-day colonialism of Africa is deliberately being used to prop up the EU’s economy.

I love Spain, Spain is my country. But it’s exploiting my people. It has to stop!

…explains Becha, a Congolese seamstress and activist who runs one of the last remaining Covid-19 relief food banks in Lavapiés who attended the protest. Spain is just one brick in the frontline wall of Fortress Europe and so the treatment of immigrants here is particularly brutal.

Very often, undocumented migrants’ work situations echo the definition of slavery that we’re more familiar with. Once they arrive into Spain after either jumping the fence, being trafficked by boat or hidden amongst cargo, they’re lured into exploitative work, their passports are confiscated and they’re unable to earn and save enough money to return home.

Some want to stay and wait it out for the two to five years necessary before automatic citizenship, but others who arrived with the same dream are met with another reality and would like to leave. But they can’t, because it costs a lot more to be trafficked back than it does to be trafficked here. And so the vicious cycle of exploitation continues.


With no papers, migrants have no rights, and for as long as they have no rights, they will continue to be exploited. Their slavery will continue to power the EU’s economy, whose long-standing global force is propped up by institutional racism that chooses profit over people. Immigrants will continue being exploited because Spain’s establishment has made a conscious decision to allow exploitation by prohibiting migrants rights and imprisoning those who challenge the system.

Regularización Ya awareness campaigns and protests have been pivotal in our understanding and awareness of migrants rights issues in Spain and the EU, and have even influenced government policy discussions and migrant representation in political spaces. Keep supporting what they do:


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